The issue of flooding has assumed frightening proportions going by what was recently experienced in Lagos State and other parts of Nigeria. Flooding has become part of life in Nigeria because of its unique geographical features. This is not to mean that the problem is peculiar to the nation. No. It is a global challenge. The Cable News Network (CNN) reported that flooding stunts economic activity at an estimated cost of over $4 billion yearly. This is why the warning by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) of the looming flooding in some states around the country is timely. According NIHSA, at least 15 states could be submerged by water, a development that has triggering off coastal and river flooding.
NIHSA’s Annual Flood Outlook is crucial to farming, farmers and farms for they are better equipped as per the right time to start the planting season rather than hurriedly embarking on cultivation only for water to sweep away the farmlands. In countries like the United States of America, floods remain major source of natural disaster. In Nigeria, past experiences indicate that flooding results from the release of water in some dams and the breaking of their banks thereby causing more harm, especially when the release is not done timely. The resultant effect of this inaction is the colossal loss of lives and property, destruction of farmlands, a disruption in the ecosystem spiraling food insecurity and environmental hazards.
Apart from the negative impact on agriculture, flooding destroys roads by making them inaccessible, slowing down commercial activities and exposing people to accidents. Ideally, what we should have include flood resilient buildings that reduce the impact of flooding, construction of buildings above flood levels, planting of trees strategically, restoring rivers to their natural courses and introducing water storage areas to take care of excesses. Hence, constant public enlightenment should be sustained for the people to desist from dumping refuse into canals. This indiscriminate dumping of refuse is a bad habit and common feature during the rainy season where people gather their waste materials and throw them away mostly at night into flowing flood waters. Apart from the nuisance that such habits causes, it could serve as a potent avenue to transmit diseases.
The present system seems to encourage illegal dumping of waste because offenders are rarely apprehended and prosecuted. Central waste collection system is usually absent in many communities thus making the people to resort to self-help by patronising cart-pushers to dispose off their refuse whenever they are unable to throw them away into the gutters, drainage and dry roads. Not only that, wastes are still being dumped in non-designated areas with little or no regard for available guidelines on how wastes are sorted and separated into organic to inorganic components. What we have is poor waste quality control; abuse of master plan; indiscriminate dumping of linear low density polythene, hard density polyethylene; and lack of greenbelts to allow water infiltrate naturally into the ground; among others.
It is instructive to state that economic allurements of streams and rivers for fishing, irrigation, domestic water supply and recreation exercises like boating tend to attract Nigerians to encroach and settle near streams or rivers without considering the risks involved. Unfortunately, weather patterns have equally changed causing heavy downpours that expose coastal areas to more floods and rising sea levels. Lack of proper urban planning has further contributed to flooding and not necessarily the amount of rainfall received. Most cities in Nigeria are not carefully planned with homes and offices constructed with little regard for nature and town planning.
This non-conformity with town planning regulations encourages flooding, which is a fallout of the way buildings are constructed, as most builders hardly link the generation of flood to the corrugated iron sheet rooftops being used in roofing houses. These laspes present another opportunity to examine the severity of recent flooding in Lagos and elsewhere on why state governments should accord appropriate attention to coastal flooding by exploring flood risk management strategies to fight subsequent threats. Lagos, arguably the most populous city in Africa, is home to around 25 million people, is a low-lying city on the coast of Nigeria, and could become uninhabitable by the end of the century courtesy of climate change and population surge.
To tackle flooding challenges, the government should read the riot act to residents against engaging in blocking of gutters and drains with solid waste. Citizens should stop throwing waste into drainage during rainfall. Those who built houses on water channels should be advised to relocate and if they refuse to, such houses should be demolished so that water can be allowed to flow unhindered. Fighting indiscriminate waste disposal requires collaborative effort and that is why it is imperative to partner advocacy groups, health bodies, media, farmer cooperatives and neighbourhood associations to mitigate environmental challenges to reduce to the barest minimum, the negative effects of flooding.
Blue-Green city should be encouraged to bring together water management and green infrastructure to recreate a more natural cycle and generate multiple economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits while disaster risk management cycle’s four emergency agencies should incorporate prevention, preparedness, response and rehabilitation phases into their workplan to reduce damage from natural hazards. Presently, Nigeria cannot be said to have proper disaster risk management strategies in place coupled with our failing ecosystem. Consequently, national and state emergency management institutions should be restructured and their capacities strenghtened to adopt technology in assessing flood impact while measures such as the construction of dams, use of nature-based solutions like tree planting, provision of shelter and relief for victims would aid people’s coping capacity and capability on virile flood management. Equipping the rapid response team, deployment of drone technology to access flood impact, and training, retraining, and capacity building for emergency responders are also key. It is equally important to stress that pro-active and contingency plans should be introduced to evacuate people to higher level away from flood disasters and to provide fresh drinking water to avert disease outbreaks.
Furthermore, the release of water from the dams can be done reasonably and in such a manner that tragic incidents are minimised or prevented. In addition, the government should enhance planning policy, sustain urban growth and development, improve public health and people’s well-being, and widen stakeholder engagement in cities for a broader approach to addressing the challenge. Depleting forest cover should be looked into as a major cause of flooding to reduce global temperatures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The adoption of urban renewal should be considered even though the process is costly and expensive. It is safe to conclude that flooding is largely man-made and thus, requires attitudinal change to tackle it. We must all do the needful to preserve our environment.